Texan hospitality entrepreneurs acquire Malmesbury hotel

By Nick Batten on 6 April, 2021

Kim and Whit Hanks, founders of Whim Hospitality, Camp Lucy and Tillie’s Restaurant in Dripping Springs, Texas have announced their acquisition of The Old Bell Hotel, Malmesbury.

Kim and Whit regularly visit Malmesbury, their Hanks family ancestral home since before 1500. In fact, pioneering Malmesbury industrialist, Walter Hanks, operated a mill below The Old Bell Hotel on the River Avon in the late 1100s. 

Lawyers from Thrings advised Kim and Whit on the acquisition.

Kim and Whit Hanks, the new owners of The Old Bell Hotel, Malmesbury

The Old Bell Hotel will continue to serve the community as it has for the past 800 years. Kim and Whit will be active owners despite current International travel restrictions and plan to reopen the hotel on 17th May 2021. They propose a programme of modest ground floor refurbishments to bring new ambience to the dining room and bar lounges, new food menus and outdoor drinks and dining areas. 

As soon as is possible, Kim and Whit along with both their US and Old Bell Hotel teams will engage with the local community, artisans, businesses and entrepreneurs. They plan to create an inclusive programme of experiences and activities to be launched at the hotel in early 2022, aiming to recreate The Old Bell Hotel as a welcoming, active hub of Malmesbury life. 

The couple have also agreed to purchase neighbouring Abbey House and Gardens later in 2021. The current owners will operate the 2021 season as usual. The gardens opened for the season to the public on 21st March 2021 with over 180 unique pieces of art from the Cotswold Sculptors Association. Kim and Whit plan to keep the gardens open to the public. 

Legal, commercial and strategic advice on both acquisitions was provided by John Davies, Corporate Partner at Thrings. Alex Pinhey, a partner in the firm’s real estate team, handled the property aspects of the deals, with associate Carey Willis Fleming advising on employment law and consultant Chris Elias working alongside John Davies on banking matters.

Kim said, “Whit and I are so excited and fortunate to have the opportunity to bring our Whim Hospitality brand of welcoming hospitality to both these outstanding historic properties in the wonderful town of Malmesbury, home of our Hanks family ancestors.

“We are looking forward to meeting our guests, members of the community, local artisans, businesses and entrepreneurs as we create a refresh and restyle programme for The Old Bell Hotel to be an inclusive, engaging destination in Malmesbury for launch in early 2022.” 

John Davies added, “It has been an absolute privilege to play a small part in this story. When I first met Kim and Whit I was bowled over by their passion and their integrity. Their love of the town and the surrounding area was obvious, but the ancestral connection added an extra layer of magic.”